How does a nation recover from fascism and turn toward a free society once more? This internationally acclaimed revelatory history—"filled with first-person accounts from articles and diaries" (The New York Times)—of the transformational decade that followed World War II illustrates how Germany raised itself out of the ashes of defeat and reckoned with the corruption of its soul and the horrors of the Holocaust.
Featuring over 40 eye-opening black-and-white photographs and posters from the period.
The years 1945 to 1955 were a raw, wild decade that found many Germans politically, economically, and morally bankrupt. Victorious Allied forces occupied the four zones that make up present-day Germany. More than half the population was displaced; 10 million newly released forced laborers and several million prisoners of war returned to an uncertain existence. Cities lay in ruins—no mail, no trains, no traffic—with bodies yet to be found beneath the towering rubble.
Aftermath received wide acclaim and spent forty-eight weeks on the best-seller list in Germany when it was published there in 2019. It is the first history of Germany's national mentality in the immediate postwar years. Using major global political developments as a backdrop, Harald Jähner weaves a series of life stories into a nuanced panorama of a nation undergoing monumental change. Poised between two eras, this decade is portrayed by Jähner as a period that proved decisive for Germany's future—and one starkly different from how most of us imagine it today.
Germans rebounded from shattering defeat with hard work, a pragmatic embrace of the new, and a willful forgetting of trauma and guilt, according to this penetrating history of the early postwar period. Journalist J hner surveys the decade following Nazi Germany's surrender, when the nation lay in ruins, occupied by foreign armies, awash in refugees, and facing desperate shortages of food, fuel, and housing. Social strife resulted, but also novel possibilities and a "bafflingly good mood," according to J hner: female cleanup crews became icons of solidarity; a frenzied nightlife of jazz and dancing erupted; respectable citizens became thieves and black marketeers; abstract art and avant-garde furniture looked to the future; the Volkswagen Beetle factory symbolized a gathering economic miracle; and Germans swept their responsibility for the Holocaust under the rug while claiming victimhood, a maneuver that J hner describes as "intolerable insolence" but also as a "necessary prerequisite" for breaking with the past and establishing democracy. Elegantly written and translated, J hner's analysis deploys emotionally resonant detail after war's horror and exhilaration, German veterans came home to become "pitiful wraith in the unheated kitchen" to vividly recreate a vibrant, if morally haunted, historical watershed. This eye-opening study enthralls. Photos.
Learned a lot about Germany
American here, really informative and insightful look into German culture and lives post WW2. I definitely recommend it.
This was a remarkable book. It challenges much that we thought we knew about postwar Germany. Aftermath is surprisingly readable and full of insightful anecdotes.